I've Heard the Mermaids Singing
|I've Heard the Mermaids Singing|
|Directed by||Patricia Rozema|
|Produced by||Patricia Rozema
|Written by||Patricia Rozema|
|Music by||Mark Korven|
|Edited by||Patricia Rozema|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Home Video
|Release date(s)||11 September 1987|
|Running time||81 mins|
The film stars Sheila McCarthy as Polly, a worker for a temporary secretarial agency. Polly serves as the narrator for the film, and there are frequent sequences portraying her whimsical fantasies. Polly lives alone, seems to have no friends and enjoys solitary bicycle rides to undertake her hobby of photography. Despite being somewhat clumsy, uneducated, socially awkward and inclined to take other's statements literally, all of which has led to scarce employment opportunities, Polly is placed as a secretary in a private art gallery owned by Gabrielle (Paule Baillargeon).
Ann-Marie MacDonald plays Mary, who is Gabrielle's former young lover, and also a painter. Mary returns after an absence, and she and Gabrielle rekindle their former relationship despite Gabrielle's misgivings that she is too old and Mary too young. Polly, who's fallen a little bit in love with Gabrielle, is inspired to submit some of her own photographs anonymously to the gallery. She is crushed when Gabrielle dismisses her photos out of hand and calls them "simple minded". Polly temporarily quits the gallery, and goes into a depression. She returns to the gallery, and revives a little when Mary notices one of her photos.
All the while, Mary and Gabrielle have been perpetrating a fraud. Gabrielle has been passing off Mary's work as her own. When Polly finds out, she becomes livid and tosses a cup of tea at Gabrielle. Believing she has done something unforgivable, Polly retreats to her flat in anguish.
Mary and Gabrielle later visit Polly at her flat, and realize that the discarded photographs were by Polly. As the film ends, Gabrielle and Mary look at more of Polly's photographs and in a short fantasy sequence the three are transported together to an idyllic wooded glen, a metaphor for the beautiful world that supposedly plain and unnoticed people like Polly inhabit.
Camille Paglia praised the film's "wonderful comedy and realism", commenting of the character Polly, "This girl's kind of aimless, yet plucky. It's the twentysomething problem with self-definition." In 1993, the Toronto International Film Festival ranked it ninth in the Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time, though the film does not appear on the updated 2004 version.
- M. Alemany-Galway. A Postmodern Cinema: The Voice of the Other in Canadian Film (2002). Scarecrow Press.
- B. Austin-Smith. "Gender is irrelevant":" I've heard the mermaids singing" as women's cinema. Cross Cultures (2002). Rodopi.
- Marilyn Fabe. "Feminism and Film Form: Patricia Rozema's I've Heard the Mermaids Singing," in Closely Watched Films: An Introduction to the Art of Narrative Film Technique. (2004). U of California P.